Thomas Wictor

Collapsed by the community

Collapsed by the community

You may have noticed that I don’t allow comments on my posts. I’ve been told that an unmoderated comment section would increase my traffic dramatically.

I doubt it. That applies to political blogs, but the people who like my books aren’t the type who visit blogs all day to either support or oppose the latest disaster. If I allowed unmoderated comments, it would make my own Website a place I wouldn’t want to visit. These are some of the messages I’ve gotten.

What are you so upset about? All parents die.

I want to fuck your dead mother. Where’s she buried?

when you’re web site was finished you must of been as excited as you were when you’re father fucked you in the ass

how long will Tom continue to be a sanctimonious twit? forever, i suppose. tom reacts to most things in a visceral manner. i pity tom and his inability to integrate into society. I pity tom and his inability rise above the age of 15.

Who the fuck is writing your blurbs? They’re shit, just like your books.

you are playing hardball. i’m a lot better at it than you are.

where do you live in socal you dirty kike

You don’t know shit about life after death. It’s just your opinion. I’m sick of all the bullshit you write about the invisible old man in the sky. Go fuck yourself. Kill yourself NOW.

What are you, an Obama cocksucker?

I’m extremely disappointed to find out you’re so conservative. I really liked Ghosts and Ballyhoo, but I won’t be buying Chasing the Last Whale or anything else you write.

If I’m still alive on the glorious day you die, I’ll throw a party.

These messages don’t bother me. One of the most important maxims I ever internalized was “Consider the source.”

My poor father was never able to do that. One of his relatives was retarded; Dad was the only member of his entire extended family who acknowledged that the man was retarded. Everyone else made excuses for him. He never had a job in his life, and he was spoiled, nasty, and violent. Mom once had to spend time with him alone. It was on a trip she and Dad made to the Midwest to look after old ladies nobody else cared about.

When Dad left my mother with his large, powerful, angry, retarded relative, the man threw a tantrum because Mom hadn’t done something the way he wanted. He’d also had his head filled with poison about Mom, courtesy of the handful of relatives who didn’t like her because she was an interloper, a Mexican, and beautiful. Mom was able to calm the man down, but she told me she was genuinely afraid.

Though Dad knew the man was retarded, he kept getting into fights with him. Dad told me the story of the funeral so often that I memorized the dialog.

“Everyone else got in the other cars, so it was just [redacted] and me left. I didn’t wanna drive the bastard, but I had no choice. He got in and said [whining child-voice] ‘I don’t like wearing seat belts! They hurt my stomach!‘ So I blew up! I couldn’t take it anymore! ‘Fine,” I said, ‘don’t wear your fuckin’ seat belt. When we crash you’ll be killed, and that’ll finally be the end of it! Don’t wear your fuckin’ seat belt!’ I’d had enough of his bullshit, so I let ‘im have it. We drove all the way back to [redacted] in perfect silence.”

The first three or four times Dad told me this story, I said, “But he was retarded. He had the mind of a child.”

“I know! But I was sick of the bastard! He always got his own way, ever since we were kids! I had to make allowances for him my whole life, and I ain’t gonna do it anymore!”

In the thirty years they lived in California, Mom and Dad had to drive to the Midwest a dozen times to resolve a crisis some neglected, elderly spinster or widow faced, and Dad would anyways get into fights with his retarded relative. The man died long before Dad, of heart disease and diabetes. He’d eaten like a child for almost eighty years, nothing but cookies, cake, and ice cream. Dad criticized him for his death, knowing full well that the man was retarded but still calling him a “stupid bastard” for living on a diet of sweets.

A few years ago, Dad roped me into helping him take care of an elderly relative nearby. She was completely out of her mind, a widow whose daughter lived closer to her than we did but who couldn’t be bothered. The old woman told us that people sneaked into her house at night, wore her dentures, drove around in her electric wheelchair, and fiddled with her diapers. I wanted to report her children for elder abuse, but Dad demanded that I not do so.

Tim and I learned that if we defied our father in such circumstances, he wouldn’t back us up. We called the authorities several times on Dad’s behalf, and he always denied there was a problem. All he wanted to do was complain, not actually find a solution. I think he was afraid of the police and government in general.

So Dad and I did various home-improvement projects for this senile woman, and then she told her neighbors that Dad had stolen money from her.

When Dad found out, he came over to my house and delivered a spectacular I-wash-my-hands-of-her speech. He reached a pitch of histrionics I’d never seen.

“But she’s senile,” I said when he was finished. “She not tracking. Her accusation against you is a hallucination.”

“I know! But the nerve! The nerve of that woman! After all I did for her!”

For the remainder of his life, he bitched about how she’d stabbed him in the back.

I’m not like Dad. I consider the source. But I also don’t want to spend even a second moderating or policing a comments section. I have to write one or two posts a day for search-engine optimization, and I’m doing a lot of other stuff too. Deleting comments would be a huge waste of my limited time. However, I ask that people not volunteer to moderate a comments section.

The Internet creates what’s called the Gyges effect, named after a Greek shepherd who had a ring that made him invisible. Commenters are anonymous, so they display a lack of inhibition that they wouldn’t normally have in a face-to-face interaction. That makes their vicious comments even more worthless, because they’re not even real. I prefer to avoid the whole issue. If my work moves you, send me a private message. There’s no need for everyone else to read it.

Another reason I don’t like having comments is because it’s dangerous for all of us. Today I read a news story about the Iranian nuclear deal. At the bottom of the page are comments. The first few looked like this.


Beside each, it has the hideously Orwellian phrase, “Comment collapsed by the community.”

The community? Commenters on a news site are now a community? And they “collapsed” the comment? They smooshed it into a tiny ball and hid it because they didn’t like it? Am I the only one who thinks this is repulsive and terrifying?

It’s also really stupid. You can read the collapsed comments; some support the Obama administration and some oppose it. So the community holds two diametrically opposed viewpoints at the same time. The community is insane.

People who comment on a Website shouldn’t be allowed to call themselves a community. Words have meaning. A community is not a bunch of strangers scattered all over the planet, in the thrall of the Gyges effect, fighting over things that they don’t really know about and can’t control. Readers of books I write are not a community.

I go to Websites with lots of comments, and what invariably happens is that the blogger gets supporters and detractors who do battle with each other. Some blogs ban detractors, so the only comments are from adoring fans. I don’t want fans; I want readers.

If it were up to me, I’d write my books anonymously and people would buy them. But I understand the need for publicity. You should understand that I hate it. Fame is universally destructive. It damages both the famous and their fans. The late British TV host Jimmy Savile set up bedrooms in psychiatric hospitals and a hospital that treats spinal injuries. In these bedrooms he sexually assaulted hundreds of children, concentrating on the mentally and physically disabled.

An enormous number of people had to have known. A TV host sets up his own bedrooms in hospitals that treat children? Is there any reason on earth that a man would do that, other than to have access to children? But he was allowed to do it because he was famous.

Like my mother, I don’t like attention or groups. For now I have to generate buzz, so I will. But I draw the line at being Mayor McCheese of McWictorville, a collapsed community of squabbling Gygesites.

Let’s all just maintain our dignity, if we can. I’d really appreciate it.